Home Print this page Email this page Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size
Users Online: 221


Home  | About Us | Editors | Search | Ahead Of Print | Current Issue | Archives | Submit Article | Instructions | Subscribe | Contacts | Login 

Table of Contents
Year : 2013  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 214-216

Repeated snake bite for recreation: Mechanisms and implications

1 Department of Emergency and Critical Care Medicine, Sri Gokulam Hospitals and Research Institute, Salem, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of Forensic Medicine, Srinivas Institute of Medical Sciences and Research centre, Mangalore, India
3 2Department of Internal Medicine, Chennai Medical College and Research Center, Irungalur, Trichy, India

Date of Web Publication1-Oct-2013

Correspondence Address:
Subramanian Senthilkumaran
Department of Emergency and Critical Care Medicine, Sri Gokulam Hospital and Research Institute, Salem 636 004, Tamil Nadu
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2229-5151.119202

Rights and Permissions

Snake venom use for recreational purposes has been documented earlier. Willfully subjecting oneself to repeated lethal snake bite as a source of getting relieved of stress and recreation observed in two healthy software engineers, without any underlying psychiatric ailments or comorbidities along with probable mechanisms, are reported. Emergency physicians and practitioners have to be aware of novel methods of exposure to snake venom so as to recognize such cases and treat them accordingly.

Keywords: Behavior, mental relaxation, nonpsychiatric status, recreational purpose, snake venom, software engineer, willful snake bite

How to cite this article:
Senthilkumaran S, Shah S, Balamurugan N, Menezes RG, Thirumalaikolundusubramanian P. Repeated snake bite for recreation: Mechanisms and implications. Int J Crit Illn Inj Sci 2013;3:214-6

How to cite this URL:
Senthilkumaran S, Shah S, Balamurugan N, Menezes RG, Thirumalaikolundusubramanian P. Repeated snake bite for recreation: Mechanisms and implications. Int J Crit Illn Inj Sci [serial online] 2013 [cited 2022 Nov 26];3:214-6. Available from: https://www.ijciis.org/text.asp?2013/3/3/214/119202

   Introduction Top

Globalization and technological innovations are bringing new challenges to the emergency physician. New technological innovations have contributed to profound changes in the quality of life of human beings and societal changes. Information technology (IT) is the most coveted field in modern India. While each job has its own stress, the fast and relentless pace of technology-enhanced work environment in IT has created new culture. Two healthy software engineers subjected themselves willfully for repeated snake bite and gained access to snake venom, so as to get relieved of their stress. This is reported in order to create awareness of such issues among emergency physicians and practitioners. There were three reported cases of snake venom use in psychoactive substance users to experience "high." [1],[2],[3] There are few cases of such addiction to semipoisonous snakes like rat snake and green wine, reported in the local press. However, to our knowledge, this is the first report of willful exposure to snake venom from direct bite for the purpose of mental relaxation among nonusers of illicit drugs and without any underlying psychiatric disorders.

   Case Report Top

0A 25-year-old software engineer came to emergency department (ED), with a request to get himself tested for HIV infection, even though he did not have any previous episodes of unprotected sexual intercourse or any illicit drug use. However, he said that he has subjected himself willfully to repeated snake bite over a period of 6 months with an interval of 30-45 days between each exposure. Patient was questioned on the awareness of toxic effects of snake venom and he had optimal knowledge. Incidentally, he said that he was stressed very much and had insomnia, due to immense work pressure. As some of his colleagues exposed to snake bite willfully felt relieved of his stress and experienced euphoria, patient accepted for willful snake bite and felt relaxed and had good sleep also. With patient's consent, he was investigated for HIV and his serology was negative. After this episode another friend of primary case, who is also a software engineer of 23 years old, came to ED with same request, as he has subjected himself to willful snake bite. He experienced sound sleep for 20-24 h and had relaxed mind after snake bite without any hang over/head ache, tremor, and sense of crawling. He also felt that his sexual desire has increased. Both of them did not experience any withdrawal symptoms. General and systemic examination including psychological assessment did not reveal any abnormalities in both. Their basic hematological and biochemical profile were within acceptable levels.

Interestingly, these two cases informed that there are different dens in different cities wherein people who want to have snake bite are allowed to sit in chairs. The person in charge of snakes holds the snake near the head end of snake just distal to lip margin. Initially, he makes the snake to inject minimal bite in little toe or index finger for minimal envenomation, and then, he makes the snake to bite in lip or tongue of individuals according to their wish. The most commonly used snakes were krait, cobra, and green snake. Persons who were bitten, showed jerky movement and left the room within few minutes. From the reports provided orally, six persons lost their life due to such procedure. Many people who use such dens were from high socioeconomic status and well educated. Some of them were youth and college students.

   Discussion Top

Ancient cultures all over the world believe that repeated snake bites/snake venom inoculation renders a person immune to fatal snake envenomation. [4] Tribal regions even in India are known to give snake bites purposefully to their children in order to protect them from fatal complications of snake bite. Lack of symptoms in our reported cases and in these primitive practices may be due to injection of too little venom, precisely the quantity needed for recreational purpose/immunity which needs further exploration.

Multiple factors like easy availability, adventure seeking, social/peer-pressure, novel sensation, pain relief, and cultural beliefs might have influenced the use of snake bite as a form of substance abuse. [3] Moreover, snakes form an important part of Hindu mythology and are worshipped even today, [5] thereby general population being unafraid of them. During middle age period, physicians used snake venom of various snakes as medicinal agents. Base on observations, we hypothesized the mechanism and uses of snake venom in clinical medicine. [6] Snake venoms have antinociceptive and analgesic activity, and certain isolated neurotoxins have demonstrated significant analgesia in animal models. The venom on entering human blood releases active metabolites such as serotonin, bradykinin, peptides, prostaglandins, and other slow reacting substances. Drowsiness was the most common symptom observed among cobra bite, which may be due to effect of toxin in brain. Literature review [7] showed that in individuals injected with cobra venom, had marked relief of pain in nearly 65% of the patients and a mild-to-moderate relief in more than 80%, and the site of analgesic action being peripheral and central nervous system. [8] Also, long-form alpha-neurotoxin from cobra venom produces a potent opioid-independent analgesic effect by acting on nicotinic acetyl choline receptors (nAChRs). [9] Cobra venom resembles to the action of morphine but differs from the opiate in that it does not produce addiction and other disagreeable or dangerous by effects. Moreover, nAChRs are involved in the mesolimbic dopaminergic reward system of the brain. [10] This pathway may be responsible for the experience of "high."

There is a debate in the fatality/immunity due to repeated snake bites in human beings either accidentally or incidentally. Haast and Winer [11] reported complete recovery of a patient without any specific therapy even after bitten by a deadly snake Bangarus Caeruleus [11] and the authors attributed it to cross protection of existing antibody between species of Bangarus and Indian, African and Egyptian cobras, as he had a history of bites from these snakes earlier. Immunity was also reported in a reptile handler bitten by king cobra "Ophiophagus Hannah." [12] Repeated poisonous snakes bites, though believed to render the individuals immune and reduce fatality of subsequent bites, Parrish and Pollard [13] analyzed the effect of repeated bites in 14 patients and concluded that bites from pit viper did not produce any kind of immunity and can cause death due to anaphylaxis. Limitation of this report is that the nature of snakes involved for willful snake bite could not be verified. Also, recall bias of the individuals has to be considered while interpreting patient's statements.

   Conclusion Top

Physicians and practitioners have to be aware of novel methods and more research is warranted in this field both for prevention as abuse and exploration of newer therapeutic molecules from snake venom.

   Acknowledgment Top

We thank Dr. K. Arthanari, M.S., for his logistic support.

   References Top

1.Xiong Y, Wang W, Pu X, J S. Using snake venom to substitute for addictive drugs. Toxicon 1992;30:567-8.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Pradhan PV, Shah LP, Ghodke PR, Nayak PR. Snake venom habituation in heroin (brown sugar) addiction: (Report of two cases). J Postgrad Med 1990;36:233-4.  Back to cited text no. 2
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
3.Katshu MZ, Dubey I, Khess CR, Sarkhel S. Snake bite as a novel form of substance abuse: Personality profiles and cultural perspectives. Subst Abus 2011;32:43-6.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Wiener S. Active immunization of man against the venom of the australian tiger snake (Notechis Scutatus). Am J Trop Med Hyg 1960;9:284-92.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Flood GD. An Introduction to Hinduism: Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1996.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Meenakshisundaram R, Sweni S, Thirumalaikolundusubramanian P. Hypothesis of snake and insect venoms against Human Immunodeficiency Virus: A review. AIDS Res Ther 2009;6:25.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Beckner TF, Idsvoog P. Drug use and distribution in a pain rehabilitation center. Am J Hosp Pharm 1975;32:285-9.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Macht DI. Experimental and clinical study of cobra venom as an analgesic. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1936;22:61-71.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Chen ZX, Zhang HL, Gu ZL, Chen BW, Han R, Reid PF, et al. A long-form alpha-neurotoxin from cobra venom produces potent opioid-independent analgesia. Acta Pharmacol Sin 2006;27:402-8.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Rahman S, López-Hernández GY, Corrigall WA, Papke RL. Neuronal nicotinic receptors as brain targets for pharmacotherapy of drug addiction. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets 2008;7:422-41.  Back to cited text no. 10
11.Haast WE, Winer ML. Complete and spontaneous recovery from the bite of a blue krait snake (Bungarus caeruleus). Am J Trop Med Hyg 1955;4:1135-7.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Tun-Pe, Aye-Aye-Myint, Warrell DA, Tin-Myint. King cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) bites in Myanmar: Venom antigen levels and development of venom antibodies. Toxicon 1995;33:379-82.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Parrish HM, Pollard CB. Effects of repeated poisonous snakebites in man. Am J Med Sci 1959;237:277-86.  Back to cited text no. 13

This article has been cited by
1 Snake Envenomation
Dan L. Longo, Steven A. Seifert, James O. Armitage, Elda E. Sanchez
New England Journal of Medicine. 2022; 386(1): 68
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Lizard as a psychedelic fauna: a systematic review of published cases
Karishma Godara, Nisha Phakey, Vaibhav Patil, Siddharth Sarkar, Krishan Kumar Pandey
Journal of Substance Use. 2022; : 1
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
3 Comparative Snake Venom Analysis for Facilitating Wildlife Forensics: A Pilot Study
Saurabh Bhargava, Kiran Kumari, Rajendra Kumar Sarin, Rajvinder Singh, Krishna K Verma
Journal of Analytical Methods in Chemistry. 2022; 2022: 1
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
4 Recreational use of snake venom, an emerging trend in India – A case report and review of reports
Dushad Ram
Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. 2022; 65: 242
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
5 A Curious Case of Snake Venom Addiction as an Alcohol De-Addiction Tool: Pain for Gain?
Dhruv Talwar, Sunil Kumar, Sourya Acharya, Gaurav S Jagtap, Sanyukta Hepat
Cureus. 2021;
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
6 Visual Hallucinations After a Russell’s Viper Bite
Subramanian Senthilkumaran,Tehlil Rizwan,Namasivayam Elangovan,Muhammad Shariq Usman,Ritesh G. Menezes,Ponniah Thirumalaikolundusubramanian
Wilderness & Environmental Medicine. 2021;
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
7 Reptile Ownership in Balkan Countries: Demographics and Reliance on Veterinary Advice
Marijana Vucinic,Ivana Hajzler,Jelena Terzin,Katarina Nenadovic,Ljiljana Jankovic,Eva Voslarova,Miloš Vucicevic
Anthrozoös. 2019; 32(1): 129
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
8 Differences Between Snakebites with Concomitant Use of Alcohol or Drugs and Single Snakebites
Joann Schulte,Kurt C. Kleinschmidt,Kristina Domanski,Eric Anthony Smith,Ashley Haynes,Brett Roth
Southern Medical Journal. 2018; 111(2): 113
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
9 What kills everyone, gives a high for some—Recreational Snake Envenomation
Lekhansh Shukla,Shiva Shanker Reddy,Arun Kandasamy,Vivek Benegal
Asian Journal of Psychiatry. 2017; 25: 106
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
10 Self-use of snake venom: The other side of the coin
Subramanian Senthilkumaran,Nanjundan Karthikeyan,Narendra Nath Jena,Ponniah Thirumalaikolundusubramanian
Medicine, Science and the Law. 2017; 57(3): 158
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
    Access Statistics
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this article
   Case Report

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded143    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 10    

Recommend this journal